Commencement celebrates six graduates of treatment court program

Emily O'Leary/Fulton Sun Jared Shafer addresses the crowd at the treatment court graduation. Shafer was one of six who graduated from the program Monday.

Jared Shafer wasn't just catering lunch to the treatment court graduation on Monday, he was catering at his own graduation.

Shafer is one of six graduates who completed the treatment court program.

"This is a great jumpstart to the rest of my life," Shafer said.

Shafer had an "amazing" experience within the treatment court program and graduating from the program "means everything."

"At first you're kind of apprehensive of the program and what it's going to do for you, and then you realize that all of these people are here for you, and they truly only want to see you do good," Shafer said.

Some of the requirements of Schafer's program were calling a urinalysis hotline each morning to determine if he needed to be drug tested, counseling once a week, attending a process group once a week and meeting with Commissioner Casey Clevenger once a month at the courthouse.

"At first it seems like they require you to do all these things, like 'how am I going to do that?'" Shafer said. "But the moment that you just give yourself up to the program, you understand that none of these things are a burden at all."

Shafer said "it's not the same program for everyone" as treatment is designed for each individual.

"It's a fantastic program, and if you just adhere to it and keep clean, then anybody can finish it, and it will change your life," Shafer said.

Clevenger said providing an alternative to incarceration "allows for healing and hope in the lives of the people we are working with."

"Treatment courts have a lower recidivism rate than sending someone to prison who has a substance use disorder," Clevenger said.

The treatment court program sees participants "where the underlying issue is substance use or mental health," Clevenger said, adding it is not restricted to those with drug charges.

"Drug addiction leads to so many other kinds of issues in the community, so those people need treatment too," Clevenger said.

According to Clevenger, there are around 50 participants in the treatment court program in Callaway County at a time. The program takes a minimum of 14 months to complete and graduations occur every quarter.

A new alumni group was announced at the commencement "to provide additional support to the graduates," Clevenger said. The alumni group will be run by graduates of the treatment court program.

"It's such an important part for humans to find connection, and it's a safe place where they can go," Clevenger said.

State Sen. Travis Fitzwater, who attended the treatment court commencement, said the treatment court program is "crucial."

"It's so helpful for our communities because they start to become leaders in our community," Fitzwater said. "I just think that is amazing work that's being done."

Fitzwater said it is helpful "to give people an opportunity to make themselves better."

"We've done such a bad job as a government, as a country on how we treat drug crimes and non-violent criminals, I think that perspective is changing," Fitzwater said.

photo Emily O'Leary/Fulton Sun Jared Shafer (left) raises a plaque presented by Casey Clevenger (right). Shafer graduated from the treatment court program Monday.